Extension Ag Update
March/April 2001
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Research Results

Illinois Green Industry Survey

In 1999, $3.95 billion was the combined value of green industry product sales, service receipts and end-user payrolls. There are more than 9,000 green industry businesses in Illinois, more than 2.3 million end-users of green industry products and services, and 2.9 billion dollars in net sales by product and service sectors in 1999. This places the industry ahead of corn ($2.56 billion) and soybean ($2.1 billion) production in economic importance to the state's economy. Green industry products and services combined total $3.28 billion in sales. With an approximate payroll of more than $1.74 billion, and a workforce of 160,000, it is estimated to have an overall impact of more than $8 billion in the Illinois economy. More than 88 percent of total receipts are attributed to landscape contractors and lawn care firms; about 6 percent to tree care; 4 percent to landscape design-only firms; 2 percent to interiorscape companies. Maintained turfgrass is about 1.54 million acres.

The survey was designed by NRES researchers Gene Campbell, survey director, and Dick Brazee. Other members of the survey team include Jennifer Hall, horticulture graduate student, and the following NRES faculty: Tony Endress, Tom Voight, and Daniel Warnock. This U of I survey was sponsored in part by the College of ACES and a coalition of industry associations, including the Illinois Landscape Contractors Association and the Illinois Nurserymen's Association.

Preparation of Feeder Calves Adds Recognized Value

Dr. Gavin Meerdink, Beef Cattle Extension Veterinarian, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 217-333-1099, meerdink@uiuc.edu

Source: Extension E-notes at http://www.cvm.uiuc.edu/ceps/enotes/

Calf raisers have held that dollars spent on preconditioning of the calf for the feedlot--including such practices as vaccination, castration, weaning, and conditioning to a feed bunk and water tank--were not recovered in the price paid by the feeder. Calf producers have thought that all animals are processed the same upon arrival, regardless of earlier treatments. This is not true. Cattle feeders know that management of cattle prior to feedlot arrival affects the degree of sickness and death loss after arrival and impacts the profit margin of the feedlot.

In the fall of 1999, the USDA's National Animal Health Monitoring System conducted a survey of feedlots with at least 1,000 head. These operations represented 85 percent of the feedlots and handled 96 percent of the cattle in the United States. Most lots reported that pre-arrival procedures were effective, even extremely effective, in reducing sickness and death loss in calves weighing less than 700 pounds. Weaning calves at least 4 weeks prior to feedlot arrival was judged particularly important. Three-quarters of the lots received pre-arrival processing information at least most of the time; and more than two-thirds at least sometimes changed their management or processing procedures on the basis of pre-arrival processing information. (The larger the feedlot, the more often this was found to occur.) Nearly one-quarter of the feedlots usually returned information to the cattle sources regarding disease occurrence, performance, and carcass quality.

Illinois veterinarians and Extension educators have been working to educate producers on the benefits of processing cattle prior to shipment to the feedlots. Green eartag and white eartag programs have been developed to define the level of pre-sale preparation the cattle have received. These procedures are certified by a veterinary practitioner, and the groups of cattle are listed on the Illinois Beef Association Web site. With these programs, electronic identification is expanding. Soon an animal will easily be traceable to its place of birth, and feeders and meatpackers will have access to this data in order to guide their calf-buying decisions.

Manipulating Plant Hormone May Help Crops

http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/jan01/acid0101.htm

Kay Simmons, National Program Staff, Beltsville, Md., (301) 504-5560, kws@ars.usda.gov

Source: ARS News Service, Kathryn Barry Stelljes, (510) 559-6069, kbstelljes@ars.usda.gov

Basic discoveries about the plant hormone abscisic acid could one day help wheat growers prevent crop damage from cold, drought and other environmental stresses. Researchers with ARS and the National Research Council of Canada have uncovered clues to how the plant hormone works. A certain part of the molecule, they found, regulates whether a wheat seed sprouts. By modifying that region biochemically, the scientists were able to keep the abscisic acid active longer, delaying sprouting damage to wheat.

ARS plant physiologist Kay Simmons also discovered the first protein kinase involved in plant responses to abscisic acid during drought and cold. Breeding plants with more of this protein may aid a crop's tolerance to adverse conditions. Simmons and colleagues have cloned the genes that control production of this protein kinase. ARS has applied for a patent on their use in conjunction with Washington State University in Pullman, Wash., and Washington University in St. Louis, Mo. (patent application no. 09/427,495).

Multiple Ear Corn and Yield Consistency

Corn that develops several ears on each plant could someday be more common than the single ear type that is now the norm. Multiple ear corn might yield better when growing conditions are not ideal, according to Denise McWilliams from the University of Minnesota Extension Service. Hybrids capable of producing more than one ear often can better adjust to available moisture and fertility; in addition, two eared varieties are less likely to go barren at higher plant populations, McWilliams points out. Corn breeders will expand efforts to bring some older multiple ear corn up to current yield standards while maintaining stalk strength. While one-eared varieties will continue to be the standard in the near future, genetic advances could make multiple ear varieties more common, McWilliams predicts

EPA Report: Trends in Protecting Children's Health

http://www.epa.gov/children/ace

Source: Office of Pesticide Programs, http://www.epa.gov/pesticides

The report shows that, while there have been improvements, formidable challenges exist in reducing risks from environmental factors. Children are more susceptible to threats from toxics and pollution than are adults for a wide variety of reasons and they require greater public health protection. The report, which includes, whenever possible, data for the 1990-99 decade, includes the following findings on improvements in that period: there was a decrease, from 28 percent (1990) to 23 percent (1998), in the percentage of children living in counties where one or more of the six "criteria air pollutants (ground-level ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, lead, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide)" exceeded national air quality standards; there was a decrease, from 29 percent (1994) to 19 percent (1999) in the percentage of homes inhabited by children under age seven and a regular smoker; and, there was a decrease, from 19 percent (1993) to eight percent (1998), in the percentage of children living in areas served by public water systems that had any violation of drinking water standards.

Continuing challenges are evident in other trends cited in the report: environmentally-related health problems are found to be persistent among some groups of children, with race and poverty playing a disproportionate role; black children of families living below the poverty line have a higher rate of asthma than those of other racial groups and income levels; the prevalence of asthma among children in the U.S. increased from 5.8 percent in 1990 to 7.5 percent in 1995; and, between 1992 and 1994, approximately 1.5 million children aged 17 and younger had elevated concentrations of lead in their blood, greater than 10 micrograms per deciliter. The new study offers a basis for a better understanding of time trends for some of the key factors relevant to the environment and for further investigation of others. Finding ways to improve federal data will be a starting point of further deliberation. Long term, the goal is to identify or develop measures that could be used by policymakers and the public to track and understand the environmental experience of children and, ultimately, to identify and evaluate ways to improve that experience.

The report presents quantitative measures of trends in environmental contaminant levels in air, water, food and soil; concentrations of contaminants in children's bodies; and, childhood diseases that may be influenced by environmental factors. The report on available measures was developed by EPA's National Center for Environmental Economics, which provides economic and health analysis of important environmental issues in the regulatory and policy process.